19: Living Life Full-Time

19: Living Life Full-Time

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Living Life Full-Time

A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think.

~Eleanor Roosevelt

My heart pounded as I waited for her to answer the phone. “Vicki, hi. How’s that new baby of yours?”

“Oh, he’s amazing, Kim. Actually, he’s the reason for my call. I wanted to talk about my options for coming back to work. I can’t imagine leaving him to go to work all day, every day.”

I rambled on about how much I loved being a mom. As she listened, I gushed about how I was enjoying the time with my baby, taking him for walks, seeing him smile, and feeling his chubby fist grasp my finger.

When I finished, I pitched my proposition: part-time Mall Marketing Director, job sharing with another part-time marketing director.

Continuing my spiel, I told her about an article I’d read about job sharing and how it was becoming a viable alternative for moms who wanted to “have it all” — family and career — yet simplify their lives as well.

She was silent.

When I finally finished my inventory of excuses, I hoped I’d convinced her how complicated it would be working full-time in such a demanding job while trying to raise a child. I held my breath to hear her response.

“Vicki, here’s what I think. I think you should be there for your baby, and if you choose to, you could return to freelance writing. I know you’ve wanted to be a mom for a long time, and I think you should grasp this opportunity. You and I both know that the marketing director position is a full-time career, not a part-time job.”

I felt overwhelming relief at that moment. Letting out a deep breath, I smiled at my husband who was waiting next to me, watching for my reaction. As I held the phone under my chin, I pumped my fist and mouthed the word, “Yes!”

“Okay, Kim, I suppose you’re right,” I feigned disappointment. “I just had to talk to you about that option, because I know I’m not ready to return to work full-time.”

“I understand, Vicki. I think you’re making the right decision, and we’ll miss you, but I think it’s for the best.”

She was compassionate about my decision to downsize my life. It seemed as if my boss almost knew I was going to give up my position as marketing director of the mall, because she outlined the procedure for filling my position and offered to act as a reference.

As I hung up the phone, I ran to my husband and hugged him, knocking the bottle out of baby Luke’s mouth, who looked up at me with wide eyes. I grabbed him and held him in my arms, dancing around the kitchen with him as he held on tight.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past ten years — “holding on tight,” as my new more simplified life has meant changes I could never have imagined.

The day I resolved to simplify my life was more than ten years ago. Even though it meant giving up some luxuries, that decision to stay home with Luke, and later, Lisette, filled my life with a richness I could never have imagined.

My morning no longer consisted of whizzing through a drive-through restaurant for a quick but expensive breakfast. It no longer meant spending too much money buying vast amounts of clothing, only to struggle with coordinating the perfect work outfit. It now included cuddles, stories, and a mid-morning walk to the park.

Afternoons meant naptime for Luke, and time for me to write and play the piano that had been gathering dust in our basement. My days no longer consisted of meeting with stressed-out store owners, crunching numbers in the marketing budget, or running around during Bridal Shows and Sidewalk Sales trying to please hundreds of people while wearing myself down.

Before Luke and Lisette, lunch meant expensive catered meetings with mall merchants and employees around a long conference table. Now, it’s a picnic blanket spread out on the grass with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sippy cups of apple juice.

My former afternoon brainstorming sessions about how to stretch our $90,000 marketing budget have become brain building sessions for my four-year-old about the letters of the day on Sesame Street and WordWorld.

Our “budget talks” involve discussing how our bike ride to the local bakery didn’t have to end in an argument over the 75-cent custard-filled Bismarck versus the 30-cent cake doughnut with frosting and sprinkles. The end result (and it only took us five minutes versus weeks of budget talks): the cake doughnut is a much better investment.

The big difference in my afternoons: I pray for long naptimes for my two little staff members so that I can write.

Sure, my days run longer now. Compared to my 9-to-6 days at the mall, they now run from about 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., when it’s bedtime for my two little staffers. But now, my days end with a sense of accomplishment that I have improved the lives of the two little ones who bless mine.

My nights now consist of dinners at home with my family, instead of waiting in line at the mall food court — eating on the run again — while checking my watch to be sure I have time to finish my “to-do list” and still make it home before six.

But for all the “exciting” things I used to do, I now have new activities to replace them, and even though we have cut our income nearly in half, we have more money saved, and have paid off our home — simply by cutting back on frivolous expenses.

Expensive vacations and new vehicles no longer excite me. I have enough excitement in my simplified life with first words, first steps, and even first falls — all followed by big hugs and kisses on plump cheeks.

I now look forward to leisurely bike rides to the park and shopping excursions in, yes, our minivan (gently used, not new), which has much more interior room than our former sporty, but gas-guzzling SUV.

Nights are filled with baths, Lego-building, and on special occasions, Disney movies filled with princesses and wishes come true.

Sure, my life used to be busier before that crucial day when I made the call to my former boss, but I wouldn’t trade my new — and simpler life — for the world.

~Victoria LaFave

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